Who wouldn't want to live a more sustainable lifestyle? While minimalism and decluttering are on the rise, and overly ostentatious displays of wealth have become somewhat laughable, striving to be more eco-friendly seems like a no-brainer. Yet, we still worry that green living involves a complete lifestyle overhaul that involves a lot of thrift shopping, eliminating trash entirely, and foraging for food. We promise that it doesn't have to feel this extreme. In fact, sustainable design is much more achievable and chicer than one would think.
To gain some insight on sustainable living à la MyDomaine, we tapped two experts on eco-friendly design: Graham Hill, CEO of LifeEdited—who made waves on the design scene for his ultra-sustainable 420-square-feet apartment—and Highlyann Krasnow, an interior designer and founder of The Design High—an NYC-based firm that specializes in eco-friendly residential design. When it comes to an elegant approach to sustainable living, these two experts have all the answers—here are their best tips for a more eco-friendly life.
Hill swears by the "buy less but better" approach when it comes to decorating. "I avoid anything that is trendy and therefore won't last long from an aesthetic perspective," he says. "I also stay away from furniture made out of nasty materials or pieces that won't last long or in style or in durability."
When it comes to buying furniture, Krasnow also recommends focusing on local makers. "There is always a carbon footprint on shipping furniture and appliances," she explains. "Understanding where items come from and buying local is a huge factor in helping the environment. Buying vintage furniture is even better as these items are being saved from going into landfills."
We have a tendency to overheat or cool our homes, but Hill recommends making small changes to adopt a more sustainable approach: "Use blinds to keep out hot sun in the summer and fans to cool you instead of AC," he suggests. "Don't forget to only heat, cool, and light spaces that are occupied." Smart thermostats make it easy to control the temperature remotely and to set up schedules that can regulate temperature only when you plan to be at home.
Hill knows a thing or two about maximizing space. In his 420-square-foot apartment, he was able to use modular systems to create up to 1100 square feet of living space—and he firmly believes in living in a smaller space: "Choosing a small space initially will give you less cubic feet to fill, clean, repair, heat, cook, and light," he explains. "Figure out how to maximize the use of your space to get more bang for your buck and a better return on the energy invested in creating the space and running it over its life cycle."
When decorating, Hill is also a minimalist but not at the expense of aesthetics: "Focus on accessories that have a purpose versus things that are simply displayed for aesthetics." Rugs, pillows, baskets, and even flower vases are all functional elements that can also be aesthetically pleasing.
When it comes to lighting, Hill abides by a few rules: "Switch to LED bulbs, and use the least wattage that works for you," he says. "Consider products by Insteon that allow you to set up scenes that are appropriate for different activities." The smart technology makes it easy to control your lighting from an app.
"It's important to turn lights off when they are not in use," says Krasnow. "I also solar light on exteriors." There is a misconception that smart technology for the home has to be expensive, but Hill shows that it doesn't have to be the case: "I use Belkin smart power strips that can help you easily turn off nonessential technologies." At $13 a pop, it's a small change that anyone can adopt.